Restaurant Waiters – the Friendly Faces of the Rogue Valley

by Ainoura Oussenbec

June 17, 2019

Now that the tourism season is in full swing, local restaurants are in for a very busy few months. The Rogue Valley receives a significant number of tourists every year, mostly around summer time. The renowned Shakespeare Festival alone can attract up to 100,000 visitors from out of the area. They are key customers who help support the numerous restaurants and cafes in Ashland and beyond.

It takes a small army of waiters to staff the restaurants and cafes in the Rogue Valley. In 2018, there were 2,325 waiters and waitresses in the region, on average. The number can go up for the tourism season and usually goes down in winter. There are many part time positions in this field, which makes it attractive for a wide variety of workers, from college students to stay-at-home parents.

Though the local restaurant industry overall has a strong seasonal pattern, experienced waiters in popular restaurants can make a living all year. The starting wages are usually at Oregon’s minimum wage levels. The Rogue Valley average wages in 2018 were at $14.52 per hour or $30,198 annually, tips included. The local average wages are about the same as statewide, not lower as is the case for many other occupations.

According to the employment forecast for 2017 to 2027, the number of new jobs for waiters is to increase by 11.4 percent, only slightly below the average for all occupations. In addition, there will be many more replacement jobs that become available because workers retire, move out of the area, or change careers.

The typical entry level education for this occupation is less than high school. Not being regarded as a glamorous career, it is still respected and appreciated by most, especially those who did it themselves in the past. The job can be tough, physically and mentally. It is a classic training ground for customer service in a fast-paced environment and dealing with a wide variety of people. For students in particular, this could be their first real job to learn all about customer service, as well as work ethic and problem solving.

In a restaurant, the staff behind the scenes may develop enticing menus and cook food to perfection, but it is the waiters who can make or break the entire experience for the customers. Waiters serve and interact with the patrons directly and, however subconsciously, may be perceived as the face of that particular restaurant. And if a tourist should run into several unfriendly waiters during a visit, the whole experience of the Rogue Valley may become tainted.

Waiters are not trained or paid to be the faces or ambassadors of the Rogue Valley, but many do it instinctively because they have a natural sense of hospitality. They serve food but also answer all kinds of questions about the area and its attractions. Based on many observations as a local, there seem to be plenty of pleasant waiters and waitresses around the Valley. They represent our community with charm and skill, and make lasting positive impressions on visitors and locals alike.


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